Our Hermeneutic

BibleThe following is a summary of our hermeneutical position.

LBC/WCF

We hold to the LBC of 1689, Chapter 1, and the WCF, Chapter 1, as non-inspired but accurate statements of the doctrine of the Holy Scriptures. While we recognize there are some differences between these documents, we do not find them as impinging on this discussion.

We also generally hold to the Westminster Larger Catechism in the sections dealing with Scripture (and marriage).

We find WFC/LBC Chapter 1 point 6  particularly important in this discussion.

Genres

We believe that while there are differing genres in Scripture, and while each genre expresses truth differently, each genre expresses truth. We believe that while the law and didactic passages set the framework for standards of right and wrong, good and evil; the narrative passages give us examples of what that right and wrong and good and evil look like. As the definition of evil, or the praise of good, should warn us or encourage us, so should the examples of good and evil.

We believe that doctrine, or right teaching, is to be found in all genre’s of Scripture. The virgin birth, for example, is foreshadowed in prophecy and then described in a narrative passage. A great deal of the nature of the importance of the Law and God’s Word is found in the Psalms, etc.

Christocentric

We hold to a Christocentric, and thus Theocentric, hermeneutic. We believe that all Scripture, from beginning to end, points to the redemptive work of Christ, sent by the Father… whether through showing us our need for it, demonstrating its historical outworking, or revealing its effects and necessity.

We believe that, while natural revelation, and then the various revelations of the OT and then John the Baptist, were sufficient for revealing the essential attributes of God (Romans 1), our need for repentance, and, along with the grace of God, were sufficient for saving faith (Hebrews 11); the object of that revelation and the provider of that salvation is and can be none other than Jesus Christ, sent by God the Father, witnessed to by the Holy Spirit.

In contrast to some views of ‘progressive revelation’ (such as held by the Anabaptists) we also hold that no part of God’s revelation contradicts or denigrates any other part of that revelation. The God who ordered the destruction of the Canaanites did not suddenly wake up and realize his mistake in the New Testament. God’s Holy and Perfect law was not made void by the faith that comes only through Christ, but is instead established (Romans 3:31).

Grammatic-Historical

We hold to the Grammatico-historical method of interpretation. We believe that every text of Scripture must be interpreted with an understanding of both the language that was used, and the context/culture/historical setting in which it was given.

However we also hold that all Scriptures are sufficiently plain that there are no facts of history or linguistics which are so obscure, or lost in time, that Christians living today, with revelation of the Spirit and diligent searching of all of Scripture, cannot understand what God would say to them through that text.

Covenantal

We believe that the Scriptures are unified not only in their message, but in their relationship to man, and that all of the Scriptures should be understood  in the light of an eternal, covenantal, relationship between God/Christ and His Chosen People/Bride.

Redemptive Historical

We do not hold to the hermeneutic entitled ‘redemptive historical’ in at least two important ways:

Rejecting examples

The book ‘Sola Scriptura’ defines, in part, the ‘redemptive historical’ (as opposed to the exemplary) method as that method which rejected the use of Biblical examples as ‘examples’.

We cannot agree with this rejection. We find it to contradict our understanding of the issues raised in II Timothy 3:16-17, the linguistic nature of many of the texts themselves[1], the way these texts are treated in the NT[2], and the way most commentators and preachers have treated those texts and examples throughout history[3].

Forcing the main point

Another issue raised was what we might call the ‘main point hypothesis’; namely that every sermon or interpretation of a text must focus on the ‘main point’ of a given text to the exclusion of other points. We find this hypothesis to be linguistically incorrect; as well as suffering from the same objections as above. It is certainly true that any text in Scripture can, and should, be interpreted as being part of the gospel of Jesus Christ. However it is equally true that they can each be interpreted as pointing to the Glory of God the  Father, or the sustaining work of God the Holy Spirit.

And none of these ‘main’ (or meta) points need take away from the existence of an infinite number of subsidiary, secondary, or dependent points in a text. A narrative, a meta-narrative (or overarching narrative), and/or a sub-narrative might all exist in the exact same text, at the exact same time, in the exact same words… and all be part of the overall meaning that God is trying to teach us with that text. A main point that is doctrinal and theoretical is often supported by secondary points that are moral and practical.

Historical Narrative vs Example

In this paper and our other works we have attempted to use the words ‘historical narrative’ and ‘example’ in different ways, reflecting their differing meanings. We use ‘examples’ in the sense used in Scripture: someone who serves to give us a pattern of behavior to follow or avoid (I Peter 5:3). We use ‘historical narrative’ in the standard literary sense, meaning the genre of literature, or even of a portion thereof, which has, as its structure, the imparting of information regarding a particular event which truly happened in history. This genre may, but is not forced, to have as its primary purpose the imparting of a knowledge of history. It contrasts with ‘parable,’ ‘myth’ and the like, in emphasizing the factuality of the events.

Both of these terms can be misunderstood. We do not use the words ‘historical narrative’, as some would, to imply that the event merely ‘happened’… I.e. to deny God’s sovereignty over both all of history and His choice over what was placed in Scripture. Neither do we use ‘example’ to deny that this example, while given for the benefit of humans, was given at the inspiration of God and is designed for His Glory.

Systematic vs Biblical

Our work here, given that it is focused on a single subject or group of subjects, is much more in the line of ‘systematic’ rather than ‘Biblical’ theology. As we understand it Biblical theology is best used when treating a given text, Systematic theology when treating a given topic.

However we hold that the ideas concerned in our work are definitely a part of the continuing revelation of God’s Redemptive Work in history. From the marriage of Adam to the marriage of the Lamb; from the fatherhood of God for Adam through the Father of Christ; these themes unfold with a profound importance throughout Scripture.

We believe that any of the texts we have treated would teach the same points if treated ‘Biblically’ rather than ‘Systematically’.

Typology

Similarly, while we do not focus on typology in this work, the various marriages and laws concerning marriage, as we see in Ephesians 5, all serve as types of the relationship between Christ and His Church; just as God also uses them, in what might be called a double type, to reflect the relationship between God and Israel.

Allegory

While allegory is used occasionally in Scripture (one thinks of ‘Wisdom’ in the proverbs, for example) for the most part the passages concerning the path to marriage are more involved with law, teaching, and example… all of which (see point 9) also serve as types (Ephesians 5).

We do not believe that even where something is allegorical (such as Wisdom = woman crying on the streets) the underlying example used in the allegory is still not counter-factual. It would defeat the purpose of the allegory of wisdom were women forbidden from engaging in the kind actions she engaged in, if the role she took was a typically masculine one, if there were no cities of the type she is said to be in, etc.

On our Hermeneutic: Example

We have been asked to show how the various issues in our hermeneutic work themselves out in our study. We are at a bit of loss of how to do this outside of a specific example, so we will try to show how we do this using one particular case, namely our conclusions ‘on the authority of the father’. The following is a summary example, without the voluminous references that we would normally include.

LBC

I) How do we arrive at our conclusion regarding the authority of the father in light of the statement on the Scriptures in the LBC?

A) Scripture interprets Scripture. There are at least two Scriptures which seem, to some, to be unclear on this issue:[4] 1) The extent of the term ‘honor’ in the fifth commandment. 2) the limits on the term ‘children’ found in Ephesians 6:1-2.

Given these possible ambiguities, how does Scripture interpret Scripture?

1) When we looked at the Scriptures, including law, case law, prophecy, Psalms and historical text, we see children respecting, obeying, and supporting (financially etc.) their parents. This is the clear testimony of all of Scripture; climaxing with Christ. The old commentators (Calvin, Gill, and Henry)  all agree unanimously on this point, and all use the same three-fold division in describing the extent of the term ‘honor’: respect, obedience, and support.

Thus Scripture interpreting Scripture clearly refutes the modern view that respect and aid can be separated from the three-fold concept of honor. It is impossible to honor an authority you do not obey; and our proper honor of our Earthly authorities teaches and reflects our honor of God Himself.

2) When we look at the Scriptures, both law, prophecy, psalms/proverbs and historical texts, demonstrate clearly and unanimously that  the obedience required of Ephesians 6:1-2 is lifelong, and even goes beyond that. The old commentators (Calvin and Gill in particular) agree clearly on that point. The word used in Ephesians 6 to refer to ‘children’ is not used, in the rest of the NT, to refer, exclusively, to younger children, but is used for people of all ages.

Thus Scripture interpreting Scripture clearly refutes the modern view that only young people, or unmarried people, or men without a job, are to obey their parents.

Genre

II) The concepts concerned in children honoring their parents, including obedience, are found in every genre in Scripture. Prophets prophecy concerning it, historical texts show examples of it, the law commands punishment for its violation, and the didactic passages teach it. Each genre reflects the same truth in different ways.

Christocentric

III)The concept of the father’s authority over his grown children is dramatically Christocentric and Theocentric. This doctrine is taught the most clearly, and modeled the most perfectly, in the relationship between Christ the Son and God the Father.

Grammatical-Historical

IV) The concept of the father’s authority over his children is taught in both the grammar and historical context of the text:

A) Grammatical

The word used for ‘children’ in Ephesians 6 can include, and frequently in the NT does include, grown people.

The term ‘honor’ in the OT and Ephesians 6 is used without grammatical qualification as to age/condition.

B) Historical

In both cultures (OT and NT) where the texts concerned were used, it is evident both from Scriptural and secular history that the concept of sons being obedient to their fathers when grown was a common, indeed assumed, concept. If God, or even Paul, had meant to deny that connection, it would have been necessary to be quite clear, and their audiences would have been shocked.

However what we see is Godly men acting as if God was quite clear… and meant that they should obey their parents even when old.

Covenantal

V) Two frequent aspects of the covenant which God has with his people are both his continual reference to Himself as ‘Father’ and the obedience which He insists they owe him. It would be a repudiation of this metaphor if, in our Earthly relationships, sons were encouraged to be disobedient to their fathers, or even if their obedience were to cease at some undefined age or condition.

Redemptive Historical

VI) A redemptive historical approach to Scriptures would still be hard pressed to deny this Christological truth. However, as we reject both their rejection of the role of examples (which are frequent, and include Christ) and their forcing of the ‘main point’, we find the evidence still more convincing.

 


[1] Many stories in the Old and New Testament are presented in very much the ‘moral parable’ genre. This type of genre is intended to provok a change of behavior in the hearer.

[2] The writers of the NT frequently refer to OT characters as examples we are to emulate.

[3] The various commentators frequently speak of Godly men as examples we are to emulate.

[4] There are other passages which also seem unclear to some, among them the ‘leave and cleave’ passage in Genesis and the Gospels. These passages are subject to the same answers as below.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox

Join other followers